We have product brands, sports brands, place brands, as well as personal brands. But what is a brand? Well, no need to be academic and boring here.
As René Carayol MBE puts it, “A brand is a promise of an experience.” That’s it. A brand is an asset that is not tangible. We may not be aware that we actually buy brands rather than products. Surprised? Get this, say you take your daughter to Burberry International School and part with P21 000 every term. Your friend may opt for another school, and let’s say Riviera, and she pays P15 000 per term.
But why would you pay P6 000 more whilst the syllabus may be the same and kids are subjected to similar exams from maybe one examining body? The simple answer is that you may not be necessarily paying for the education of your kid. Instead, you may be paying P6 000 more for the image or reputation of the school, my friend. Yeah, that’s it!
Manchester United had spent two seasons without UEFA Champions League football, but still maintained its position as England’s richest football club by far and even Adidas kitted them out for reportedly £75 million a season. A record in English soccer then! Simply because the club has an image that is in the top drawer of the customer’s mind and Adidas knows the value of the club’s image and brand ecosystem.
You want another example? Let’s take jam. Are you aware that the ingredients are virtually similar? The difference is that the other jam is written Woolworths, Spar, Rhodes, and maybe Choppies. The taste is basically the same, but you would pay maybe P18.95 for a Rhodes jam and P29 for a Woolworths jam. Again image, my friend. Or the brand’s equity. (By the way, brand value and brand equity are different. Brand value is quantifying the brand and brand equity is our perception of the brand). Branding is just psychological, invading the consumer’s mind. Talk of brand ‘stealth.’
The same applies to place brands. Place brands should always be honest and fulfill what they promise. Please don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. Pictures in holiday brochures or other promotional materials can be deceiving. And to make it worse, services cannot be inspected or tried before purchasing. So, buying services or holiday packages is accompanied by risk. However, it is important to note that there are place brands that deliver because they are so concerned about their reputation. For example, Las Vegas is a city that never sleeps and it lives up to that promise. Therefore, whenever one visits Las Vegas one is likely to experience a city that never sleeps and Las Vegas will continue to receive visitors because of the value attached to it. The City of New York is the most valuable city brand worth over USD2 trillion. The value is derived from what the city can offer – safety, attractions, urban culture, affordable accommodation, good public services, and leisure activities. The brand value is calculated using the following criteria: economic growth, culture, governance, environment, talent, and reputation (https://www.statista.com/ ).
For cities like Gaborone that may wish to brand themselves in the future, New York may be the template. But when a place brand does not deliver on its promises, it is seen as an unreliable brand and customers won’t demonstrate any fidelity towards it and ultimately its brand value plummets. They will desert you and use social media to batter you. Honouring promises is what keeps customers. The truth is that in branding, what matters is what you do, not what you say. Talk is cheap. A good brand should be continually learning, innovative, honest, transparent and adopt the Blue Ocean Strategy. Don’t think you are an avatar or some kind of oracle that will always be deified by customers.
Remember Kodak buddy! Brand value is doing the right things all the time. consistency, creditworthiness, liveability, economic stability, and ‘vibe.’ For instance, if we take ‘liveability,’ the City of Cape Town will do well for students as it relatively has affordable student accommodation, a good transport system, good Internet connectivity, good climate, attractions and four universities with Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town as two of the leading institutions of learning. Infact, the two register more patents than any other university in South Africa.
Manchester United is a football brand worth $4.12 billion, according to the Forbes 2018 report, ahead of Real Madrid ($4.09 billion) although the Los Blancos were European champions three years (2016, 2017 and 2018) in succession. But for the killer sports brand, the Dallas Cowboys are every marketer’s dream. They are worth over $4.8 billion.
Everyone wants to be associated with valuable brands because it tends to radiate to you as well. And we do have personal brands. Take, for example, Michael Jordan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Michael Jordan (reportedly worth US$1.6 billion) is a valuable personal brand, hence another valuable brand viz, Nike partnered with him to have the iconic Air Jordan. Do you want to know one of the reasons why Manchester United and Everton signed Zlatan and Wayne Rooney respectively? The image or value, the success, and most importantly, the followers they have on social media platforms. That’s why these guys have image rights clauses in their contracts. A personal brand helps the sports brand have access to millions of followers or supporters.
Rooney has over 15 million followers on Instagram, Zlatan has 52 million, Cristiano Ronaldo has close to 407 million, and Lebron James just under 113 million. Sports teams can increase their brand value by piggybacking on personal brands. Place brands do the same. They piggyback on iconic attractions to increase their value; New York with the harbour or borough, Paris with the Eiffel Tower, and so on.
Seth Godin defines brand value as “the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives”. The brand value may be seen as brand endurance (check Harley Davidson’s story), ethics and uniqueness. Place brands have values. New York and London are city brands that are more valuable than other city brands. A place can invest in its value by improving infrastructure, refreshing the brand, improving services and being environmentally responsible. As seen from the image above, a city’s or nation’s brand value can be increased by adopting the six elements of Simon Anholt’s brand index.
It is vital to invest in people, their skills, welcoming attitude, we should improve and know our heritage, improve our investment climate, convince people to visit, improve export quality and finally improve governance. Making and keeping promises should be done with the utmost care. Promises made and later not fulfilled weaken the image of the place brand and erode the brand value. Lies have short legs. In life, and indeed in branding, principle and honesty can’t live side by side with lies. Brand Integrity is an investment.
Good brands have values, personalities, purpose, associations and enduring brand essence. Let’s talk turkey, any brand that is devoid of these won’t survive and you can take that to the bank. Its brand value nosedives. Nike, since its formation in 1964, has continued to grow from a challenger brand to Adidas to be the behemoth of a brand that we see today. It is because it has an enduring brand essence. The brand essence is the nucleus of the brand. It is why the brand exists. Today Nike’s brand value is over US$30 billion compared to the late 1980s when it was worth US$1.2 billion less than Reebok.
Does your company or city have a sustainable brand essence? A good brand should stand the test of time, no matter the circumstances. If an economic downturn squeezes the last breath out of you, then you were probably not a good brand from the beginning. Simple! Study Harley Davidson playbook mate. They survived WWI, WWII, and the Great Depression and even today a Harley is still the brand for motorcycle enthusiasts. How did they do it? The answer, you guessed it: quality durability, performance and oh yes, that maniacal sound. That’s the brand value nurtured in Milwaukee and enjoyed all over the world.
Investment in self is invaluable.